To start from the beginning, How did everything started for you? What was your first approach to the arts?
I started making art when I was very young. I spent most of my time drawing. I decided that I wanted to be an artist even before I was in school. I used to have a problem with drawing arms. I would just draw people with big hands. Yet… I was encouraged.
What is the importance of the art history in your work? Do you admire works or artists that influenced your ideas about art?
After getting my MFA from CalArts, I obtained an MA in Modern Art and Critical and Curatorial Studies at Columbia University. At Columbia, the Curatorial Studies program is part of the Art History program. I was lucky to study with a number of influential art historians such as Benjamin Buchloh, Rosiland Krauss, Jonathan Crary and Anne Higonnet. For my thesis project, I researched theories of collecting. My final project dealt with the history of collecting by both individuals and museums. Most of my major projects have started by developing collections of objects.
I am currently working on a series of photographs combining elements from contemporary product photography and 17th Century Dutch still life painting. They reference the pronkstilleven, a particularly ostentatious subgenre of still life painting commissioned by wealthy merchants to show off their goods. Art historian Hal Foster writes about these types of images in relation to the beginnings of transcontinental trade, colonialism, and fetishism. My current work is influenced by his discussion.
What are the artists that you like nowadays?
I have always been interested in games played by seventies conceptual artists and influenced by the aesthetics of the pictures generation—whether or not this is expressed in what I produce. In relation to my new projects, I have been thinking about the work of Marilyn Minter and Laurie Simmons. I was recently in a show with Betty Tompkins, who I think is amazing.
The impetus for my current series was the film Stilleben, (Still Life) by the late German artist Harun Farocki. In his film, Farocki compared 17th Century Flemish still life painting to contemporary commercial product photography. He claimed that today’s photographers working in advertising—depicting objects from everyday life—are the still life painters of our time.
I am currently looking at a lot of 17th Century Dutch still life paintings, more so than contemporary art.
Did your work receive influences from other disciplines?
In addition to art history, I am influenced by archaeology.
My first major project, The Division Museum of Ceramics and Glassware, was a play on the archeological importance of pottery shards. A decade-long commitment, from 2004 – 2014, I began collecting dishes broken through everyday use from family, friends, and colleagues. My idea was to give commonplace objects historical importance by collecting a large number of them. I opened an exhibition space in Chinatown, New York, to exhibit my broken items. Using archaeological archiving techniques, I produced several photography projects documenting my collection. I created a series of performances playing on institutional forms of community engagement.
I have tasked myself to preserve my broken items indefinitely. I have boxes filled with every shard of ceramic or glass that I collected over a period of ten years. I like to think that one day a future archaeologist with discover my idiosyncratic collection. He or she will piece together a story of our current society from these remains.
What is the process of developing your work like?
I have a big folder labeled “Unfinished Projects” on my computer. I currently have twenty-eight projects that I play around with sporadically. They are in various states of completion. Some of them just need a deadline to manifest themselves. Some are so old that I think that there is probably a good reason that the public has never seen them. Most of my projects are based around accumulating objects and images. The accumulation process starts at this level. If the project entails collecting actual things, there is usually a corresponding filing box in my studio or storage space filled with real objects. Generally, when I have a show, I move one of these subfolders from my main “Unfinished Projects” folder to my “Current Projects” folder.
How would you define your work?
Tags: Barb Choit